At last we come to the end of Beauty and the Beast, but I had a lot of fun writing this series!
There is no denying that Disney is a master at pulling at our heart-strings, and the “transformation scene” is no exception. How can he audience not get upset? Sure, Gaston got what he had coming to him and then some, but the Beast has been badly injured and the magic rose is down to the very last petal!!
While the enchanted objects watch in terror/horror, Belle and the Beast share their moment together. The Beast knows this is the end, but Belle is in denial, swearing that everything is going to be okay. It’s not though, and the Beast, relieved that he could see Belle one last time, (seemingly) dies!! And while Belle breaks down in tears (quitely confessing that she loves the Beast), the camera looks back to show the very last petal falling. Of course Lumiere, Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts didn’t hear Belle’s admission of love, so they believe that it’s all over, they’re trapped this way forever. But then…something wonderful happens!
I always looked forward to this scene as a kid, because once the “magic rain” starts falling, you know something cool is going on. Animator Glen Keane was originally told that he would have only two weeks to complete this sequence, but he knew that wouldn’t be nearly enough time to do it properly.
So he went to producer Don Hahn and asked for more time and he as told “take as long as you need” and it really shows! On a quick side note, the smoke you see rising up around the Beast is real (that is, live action), it was left over from a scene in The Black Cauldron (1985) so the animators reused it here (though how I’m not exactly sure).
What’s really mind-bending about Beast’s transformation is that it’s all hand-drawn! You watch a hand, a leg, and finally the Beast’s face change into the Prince and the motion of change is so smooth (and at the same time so complex), it’s incredible work! Of course Belle (and the other enchanted objects) are spell-bound during this sequence (Belle has a perfect “What’s Happening?” look on her face).
The transformation finishes in one glorious flash and now, instead of the Beast, we have this really handsome Prince laying on the balcony, but he’s not dead! He staggers to his feet, turns and faces a shocked Belle. And yes, that is Robby Benson’s real voice when the Prince speaks (hard to believe it’s the same person isn’t it?) Belle doesn’t seem too sure that this handsome guy is the same as the Beast she’s fallen in love with, but then she sees his eyes, those beautiful blue eyes that are identical to those the Beast had.
Now properly reunited, Belle and the Prince share that long-awaited kiss, which seems to fully break the enchantment over the whole castle. There’s fireworks everywhere and suddenly it’s day when it was previously night, and the castle is completely transformed (notably, the monster statues become angels), and then everyone begins changing back into their human forms and everything is happy and wonderful again.
The story ends with Belle and the Prince happily dancing in the ballroom once more. Maurice is there also and everyone is going to live happily ever after. If this scene looks strikingly familiar to the ending of Sleeping Beauty (1959), that’s because it essentially is the same scene, and Aurora and Philip were painted over with Belle and the Prince and any other characters were altered accordingly. This was done because the production was running short of time and money and this was a cost-effective way to complete the production without fully animating a whole new scene. Truthfully, I don’t mind, it’s a wonderful ending to a wonderful story. And the last refrain of “Tale as Old as Time” never fails to make me tear up. By the way, that last stained glass window is real!!! It exists somewhere in Disneyland (or so I’ve read) so, if anyone has a picture of the real window, I would love to see it!!
And that’s it for Beauty and the Beast! I hope you are all inspired to go out and re-watch this dazzling piece of animation (and feel free to sing along). Tomorrow (if no tiebreaker is required) I will announce the next Disney film to be covered.
While doing research for this last post, I came across a last piece of trivia that I wanted to share: a proposed death for Gaston involved him being eaten alive by wolves after falling from the balcony but surviving with a broken leg (this fate was eventually used for Scar in The Lion King, substituting hyenas for wolves). I’m not sure what’s worse, falling to your death with enough time to think about it, or falling, breaking your leg and THEN being eaten by wolves. It’s interesting to think about.
*all images are the property of Walt Disney Studios
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